It’s March 2034, six months after D.C. police detective Jen Lu and Chandler, her sentient bio-computer and wannabe tough guy implanted in her brain, cracked the mystery of Eden. The climate crisis is hitting harder than ever: a mega-hurricane has devastated the eco-system and waves of refugees pour into Washington, D.C.
Environmental lawyer and media darling Patty Garcia dies in a bizarre accident on a golf course. Of the seven billion people on the planet, only Jen thinks she was murdered. After all, Garcia just won a court case for massive climate change reparations to be paid out by oil, gas, and coal companies. Jen is warned off, but she and Chandler start digging. Signs point to Garcia’s abusive ex, a former oil giant, but soon Jen turns up more suspects who have an even greater motive for committing murder
Soon Jen is in the crosshairs of those who will ensure the truth never comes to light, no matter the cost. She has to move quickly before she becomes next on the killer’s list.
Read on for an interview with Michael Kaufman, author of The Last Resort.
S.R.: You’ve got an impressive career, working with the United Nations, governments, NGOs, and businesses to engage men to support women’s rights. How has that influenced your writing?
M.K.: Sure, I get angry and disturbed by things I see but, even more, I get inspired by the courage of women and an increasing number of men to bring about change.
My fiction reflects my optimism, in spite of the existential crises we now face. It’s not a blind optimism, but it reflects the human capacity to question, struggle and change that I’ve seen in my work around the world
That said, I’m lucky that I also write nonfiction. (My latest was The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution.) What this means is that I don’t have to teach and preach in my fiction. I get to tell exciting stories but also weave in themes that matter both to our personal lives and the future of the planet.
S.R.: What inspired you to write The Last Resort and the Jen Lu series?
M.K.: I wanted to write a near-future series (set in Washington, D.C., only a decade from now) that is not a grim dystopia. The Last Resort is set in the midst of the escalating climate crisis and increasing economic inequality, and yet there is a sense of hope.
I wanted to show you can dive into political, social and economic themes in a page-turning mystery.
Simply put, I wanted to write a series that I (as a reader) would love reading.
S.R.: What do you hope readers take away from The Last Resort?
M.K.: I hope they walk away saying, “Damn, that was one fine and fun read,” and, like a hungry two-year-old, shout, “More!”
S.R.: The Jen Lu series blends multiple genres together (political thriller, mystery, science-fiction, speculative fiction, anti-racist and feminist works, police procedurals). What advice would you give to writers when blending genres in one story?
M.K.: Short answer: Strap on your shoulder pads and helmet.
Slightly longer answer: The online algorithm-driven publishing world wants to easily slot every book. Marketing wants clear comp titles since they figure readers only want to read endless versions of the books they’ve already read.
The problem is reality. That is to say, reality (including the fictional realities we create) doesn’t slice and dice the world into neat categories.
The solution: Trust readers to have brains. Trust bookstore managers. Trust reviewers. And most of all, trust yourself to work your ass off to get this right and get it good.
S.R.: What’s your favorite part of the Jen Lu series?
M.K.: It’s a tie. Like every reader I’ve spoken to and every reviewer I’ve read, it’s got to be Chandler, Jen’s unusual “partner” who narrates half the book. The thing is, though, he’s a bio-computer implanted in her brain. He’s a wannabe tough guy, but given that he’s only 3 years old, he has a hard time pulling it off.
But I also love the sheer joy of these books.
S.R.: What are you working on next?
M.K.: Tons! I’ve co-authored a real-world YA novel with one (big) fantasy element and themes around the environment and young women’s empowerment. My agent doesn’t do YA so I’m not sure where to go with it. But I am finishing up a traditional thriller that my agent loves. And I’m returning to work on a big literary novel — my first fiction was a literary novel published by Penguin/Viking. Plus, of course, I’m starting the next Jen Lu novel.
Michael Kaufman has worked for decades engaging men to support women’s rights and positively transform the lives of men. He is the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women. He volunteers as a senior fellow at Promundo (Washington, D.C.) and has worked in 50 countries with the United Nations, governments, NGOs and educators. He advised the French government in 2019 as a member of its G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council.
He is the author of numerous nonfiction and fiction works, and was awarded the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His most recent nonfiction book is “The Time Has Come.” He’s also written “Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution” (2019) and his first Jen Lu novel“The Last Exit.” His books and articles have been translated into 14 languages. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, having lived in Durham, North Carolina, and now living in Toronto, Canada, he is married and has a daughter and a son. For more information, please visit michaelkaufman.com.
You can purchase your copy of The Last Resort here.